Agenda item

Scrutiny of Homes Related Cabinet Reports

To consider the following Homes related reports scheduled for Cabinet consideration on 29 September 2021:


·       BCP Housing Strategy 2021-2026 "Our commitment to our communities"

·       Council Newbuild Housing & Acquisition Strategy (CNHAS), 2021-2026


The O&S Board is asked to scrutinise the reports and make recommendations to Cabinet as appropriate.


Cabinet member invited to attend for this item: Councillor Robert Lawton, Portfolio Holder for Homes and Councillor Philip Broadhead, Portfolio Holder for Regernation


The Cabinet report for this item is included with the agenda for consideration by the Overview and Scrutiny Board.


BCP Housing Strategy 2021-2026 "Our commitment to our communities" – The Portfolio Holder for Homespresented a report, a copy of which had been circulated to each member of the Board and a copy of which appears as Appendix 'A' to these minutes in the Minute Book. The Portfolio Holder and officers addressed a number of points raised by the Board including:


  • Concerns that the commitment to social housing in new developments wasn’t being adhered to. There was a need to ensure that developers worked to the targets rather than make excuses that the location or development was the wrong place for it. In response the Board was advised that the majority of Council stock was socially rented housing but the points raised would be taken into consideration
  • There was a team in place who worked with external providers to address issues with housing need. It was noted that Priority no. 3 stated that the housing service had to work closely with internal and external partners, identifying specialist housing requirements and recognise the current unmet need and predict future housing requitements.
  • In response to a query it was confirmed that the priority was currently identifying and addressing the current unmet need and trying to avoid crisis situations and emergency placements. However, there was also a need to look to future demands and needs and this was being done alongside the immediate priority.
  • A Councillor suggested that the reason why only properties in Bournemouth and Poole were referred to should be clearly explained and an explanation that all social housing was owned by the Sovereign Housing Association in Christchurch should be provided.
  • A Board member sought assurance that property construction using Modern Methods of Construction (MMC). The Portfolio Holder advised that they would not do anything which was ‘cheap or quick’. The Council would employ good labour methods and correct materials.
  • In response to a query regarding homes which were unoccupied the Chief Financial Officer advised that there was a strategy set out by government on Council tax requiring a 100 percent premium if a home was empty for more than 2 years. A Board member asked if there was a strategy for bringing these back into use. The Portfolio Holder advised that there was previously an empty homes officer which they would like to reinstate, and they were looking at the resource needed to move forward the empty homes strategy.
  • A Board member asked how the target Energy Performance Certificate rating of D was arrived at, given the mix of housing stock, both old and new, the newer stock being able to achieve a higher rating. By 2030 the objective was to get council houses to an EPC rating of C. A working group was examining the modelling to get properties up to this standard. It was suggested that this was confusing when there was a proposed government target set at a different level for new tenancies. Councillors commented that the strategy should be more ambitious.
  • The housing waiting list was currently at 5000. A Councillor asked if it was expected that this would increase with the end to the restrictions on evictions. It was noted that there had been no indication to date that evictions or demand would significantly increase. However, this couldn’t be ruled out as court dates became available.
  • It was noted that there was a focus on the private rental sector but not on affordable homes for purchase. There were lots of younger people who did not want to remain in rented accommodation. There was demographic inequality in terms of the existing social housing stock and the new affordable housing stock, which disproportionately affected younger people. A Member felt that there should be a stronger commitment toward social housing
  • A Councillor observed that although this was a five-year strategy it appeared to focus on a point in time. It was noted that it was a fluid and evolving document and would be under annual review.
  • In response to a question, the Board was advised that the council employs measures in line with the current requirements to seek to avoid returning ‘right to buy’ receipts to central government.
  • Regarding the income to housing cost ratio, it was confirmed that there was information in the housing needs assessment report. The Local Housing allowance was based on affordability in relation to income provided people were housed in the right accommodation for their needs. It was observed that market rents were rising significantly above the local housing allowance.
  • In response to issues raised it was explained that selective licensing had been put on hold for the moment, but the housing service considered every available avenue when dealing with rogue landlords.


The Chairman summarised that whilst a number of issues had been raised the overall the Housing Strategy was welcomed. The Chairman thanked Officers and the Portfolio Holder for their responses.


Council Newbuild Housing and Acquisition Strategy – (CNHAS), 2021-26The Portfolio Holder for Homespresented a report, a copy of which had been circulated to each member of the Board and a copy of which appears as Appendix 'B' to these minutes in the Minute Book. The Portfolio Holder and officers addressed a number of points raised by the Board including:


·     A Board member asked for confirmation that Templeman House was social housing. It was confirmed that this was designated for social rent and it was explained that affordable housing was often used to cover all types of affordable housing, including social rent and shared ownership.

·     The majority of housing coming forward in 2022/23, would be for social rent, a total of 49 homes out of 89. The five-year programme would include a mix of affordable and social. Statistics would be brought to full council year on year.

·     A Councillor commented that affordable housing would not get people of off the housing register and asked whether there had been any study of what the requirements of those on the housing register were, in order to help shape what might be built on a particular site.

·     A concern was raised over the definition of what ‘adequately housed’ meant and whether the detail of what people required from housing had been considered. There was also the hidden homeless and those in unsustainable housing, who were paying rents above what they could afford, to take into consideration.

·     A Board Member asked for further detail on how the Council would actively try to retain homes within the Council’s housing stock. It was noted that there were criteria which would be used to determine whether someone can apply to buy their home.

·     The space for one bedroom accommodation did not provide a lot of room for people to live comfortably and sustainably. These were listed as bronze standard. There was an aim for 40 percent of builds to meet the silver standard and 10 percent should reach the gold standard.

·     In terms of environmental standards it was noted that A and B standards would be the target for all new builds. All applications would be required to meet disabled standards.

·     A Board member queried why the Council was investing in a sales and marketing manager when demand for homes was so high. It was noted that income generation was important for the Council and would help to keep Council Tax rates down.

·     A Board member commented that the sustainability assessment had marked the paper as amber, which indicated minor negative impacts and questioned why this was proceeding if there were negative impacts.

·     It was noted that there were certain areas which it was not possible to be definitive about and therefore it was recommended that it should be given an amber rating. It was noted that there were developments underway such as Luckham House which would be almost zero carbon.

·     There was a query around the design guidance in relation to outside space, the importance of which had been amplified by the impact of covid. It was suggested that an amendment could be made to the document on this basis and the Portfolio Holder supported this suggestion.


The Chairman expressed his thanks to officers for a well-presented report and was pleased to hear that work on new social housing builds would be moving forward.


Following this item, the meeting was adjourned at 4.00pm resumed at 4.07pm 

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